It is amazing to see how much Carnival Cruise Lines is doubling down on their new-found love for craft beer.
But it’s an interesting story, and I will tell you the entire story as my beautiful wife and I lived it.
Several weeks ago, I got another invitation from Carnival Cruise Lines to attend a press release onboard one of their ships. This is not the first time that this has happened. The first time I accepted one of these invitations was when the Carnival Vista, their then-newest ship, entered its home port of Miami for the first time.
The Vista, as some blog readers may remember, is notable for being the first North American cruise ship to have an on-board brewery. It’s a beautiful glass and bronze system that brews just under three barrels a batch and is located in the Red Frog Pub, a Caribbean-themed concept. I spent a good long time touring it and talking to brewmaster Colin Presby about the system and getting it up and running.
They have since launched a ship after that, the Carnival Horizon, with and onboard brewery as well. This one is part of Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse, that was created in conjunction with celebrity chef Guy Fieri.
On board the Magic, the invitation read that we would be treated to an announcement concerning Carnival’s craft beer program. And that was all it said. I had a couple of assumptions, but no hard facts to base either of them on.
So we went, staying in downtown Miami for the night thanks to Carnival and getting up relatively early in the morning to head to the dock. We definitely did not need to head to the dock early, as the Coast Guard decided to delay everybody for an hour and a half. But when the Coast Guard tells you to do something. you do it and there’s really no room for negotiation.
We were surrounded by lots of employees with shirts that said “Three Cheers for Our Beers,” and matching lanyards, all with the logos of three different and distinct styles of beer. Looking back on it, this should have been my first clue.
Once on board and in Red Frog Pub (The concept premiered on the Magic, just without the brewery), we were treated to trays and trays of some quite tasty appetizers (the grouper fingers and coconut shrimp were definite hits and having some awesome hot sauces next to them really accentuated the whole deal).
We were also being given samples of three very distinct beers, coincidentally the beers whose logos were all over the place on the shirts, the lanyards, and pins that were already attached to the lanyards. Those beers were the stars of the show, and were even represented by a nice beer stein ice sculpture in the back.
Colin and I connected briefly, but not for too long since he had an announcement to go to with Edward Allen, the Vice President of Beverage Operations for Carnival. After a few minutes, and a slight giveaway by somebody from the cruise line, the announcement had been officially made.
Starting that day, all Carnival Cruise Lines were going to be stocked with kegs and cans of three styles of beer created by Mr. Presby and only available on Carnival Cruise Lines. As of right now, 24 ships have those beers, and the remaining two Carnival Cruise ships are currently in Australia, but will be getting their shipments shortly.
The three beers were born from the breweries on board both the Vista and Horizon. The actual brewing, canning, and kegging is coming from BrewHub, the Lakeland-based contract brewer that many Florida breweries are using to expand their output and distribution.
From the Pig & Anchor on the Carnival Horizon comes their top seller ParchedPig Toasted Amber (Red Ale, 5% ABV). This beer ended up being everyone’s favorite, with a solid caramel malt backbone lightly accentuated with Noble hops and a smooth, easy to drink body.
From the Red Frog Pub on the Carnival Vista comes ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat (Witbier, 4.8% ABV), more of a witbier than a true hefeweizen. To be sure, the malt bill and yeast tended to skew a bit more hefe, and you can see that in the decidedly darker (for a wheat ale) color. Flavor-wise, there’s a tiny bit of banana ester there, but the citrus and coriander come in strong, bringing a spicy quality to the beer.
To round everything out, and since everybody loves IPAs, the third beer chosen was also from the Horizon, their ParchedPig West Coast IPA (IPA, 6.2% ABV). The hop profile tends to be a bit more herbal than citrus, and comes across decidedly less aggressive than the majority of West Coast IPAs. That is for good reason, as the ParchedPig beers were designed specifically to pair with the food at the restaurant from which they are sourced.
These beers are now being sold on draft and in 16 oz. tall boy four packs, the expectation being that people can purchase a four pack and bring it back to their stateroom. Nobody truly knows whether the beers were supposed to be taken off the ship, but according to a press release the Beverage Ops. VP is quoted as saying “My hope is that our guests will take a four-pack home with them to share with family and friends as a refreshing and memorable reminder of their cruise.”
I guess that means that you can take the 4-pack home with you. If anyone asks, that’s Edward in the blue shirt. Show them this picture and tell them he said it’s okay (Colin’s in the brown shirt).
If you are a listener to the Florida Beer Podcast, Colin and I sat down for a nice long interview, and you’ll be able to hear that on your favorite podcasting app of choice in the next couple of days.
As for trying the beer, it’s time for you to book a cruise on Carnival because those are the only ways that you’ll be able to try these three beers. But it doesn’t matter which Carnival cruise you choose, all three will be available.
As for me, I will be excitedly awaiting what Carnival’s next press release will bring.
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